World Cup post: ¡Olé los ticos!

July 3, 2014

in Central/South America, Costa Rica, John Joutras, Summer 2014

La Copa Mundial, the pinnacle of the world’s favorite sport: soccer (or is it football?).

I’m sure that being a part of the World Cup hype in any Latino American country would be exciting for most sports fans, but the excitement here in Costa Rica is unlike anything I’ve seen. It’s like a virus—a nationwide pox party where everybody gets together to infect each other… with enthusiasm.

World Cup fever has been getting exponentially stronger with every game los ticos play. Costa Rica’s squad wasn’t even predicted to escape their initial group of Italy, England, and Uruguay, but they made it (with style), and now they’re in the quarterfinals for the first time in history with a shootout win over Greece.

Here’s a picture I took of the scene in front of the mall of San Pedro (only a five minute walk from class) after Costa Rica’s quarterfinal qualifying conquest:

Locura!—Madness!

Locura!—Madness!

Watching sports has never been my preferred pastime, but this is impossible to ignore (not that I’d want to). After every win, the streets are lined with proud ticos waving flags and cheering. We could tell if Costa Rica scored during class because the car horns would make a chorus. At la fuente in front of the mall, there was even a guest appearance from the president, Luis Guillermo Solís. I was with Alberto, a college student I met while walking to la fuente, and I didn’t believe him at first when he pointed out the president to me on top of the overpass, all I could see was one security guard and a bunch of normal looking ticos around him. Apparently, it’s not uncommon for the president to come celebrate at la fuente after a game. In contrast to the U.S., the president’s security is pretty relaxed. It’s no big deal for him to walk among the mob with only a security guard or two and some friends.

The national identity los ticos seem to have is something new for me. I can’t imagine a cause or event in the United States that would bring everyone together in the same kind of way, especially with the size and diversity of people in the U.S. The best analogy I can come up with is the Super Bowl. Each game is like the Super Bowl, except everybody is cheering for the same team, and the streets are filled with people yelling and hanging out of car windows after the game.

I think that the Fourth of July, my favorite capitalized date, comes closest. Speaking of the Fourth, I am going to miss it a little. It will be a little weird letting the day go by without eating a bratwurst or watching anything explode.

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